Three Colombians remain imprisoned in El Salvador’s jails, despite a judge ordering their release in December. Juan Esteban Eusse Ramirez, Bayron Andres Rodriguez Sanchez and Mahyk Deivy Aldana Rayo remain in prison at the request of the Attorney General’s Office, under the exception regime that has been in force in the country since March 2022. The case was reported this week by the independent Colombian media outlet Cuestion Publica.
In the midst of the electoral campaign, in which President Nayib Bukele is seeking a second term, even flouting the country’s constitution that prohibits it, the fight against organized crime that has been flooding El Salvador with violence for decades is the card that the president presents in a reelection that seems to be assured. Under the emergency regime, thousands of people remain in prisons throughout the country, although many of them do not have criminal cases against them, or have court orders for their release, as in the case of the three Colombians.
No presumption of innocence
In the old debate between security and human rights, more and more people, inside and outside El Salvador, look the other way and willingly accept the suspension of constitutional rights in exchange for the actions of the security forces and the judiciary, in a framework in which the presumption of innocence simply does not exist.
As for the case of the three Colombians, they are part of a group of 85 Colombians imprisoned in Salvadoran jails. The families of the three have asked for help from Colombian consular authorities in the Central American country, but so far diplomatic pressure has had no effect.
According to the media that has studied the case, the Colombian families of the three prisoners, aged between 22 and 31 years old, deplore the fact that their relatives continue to be deprived of their freedom because of President Bukele’s crusade against crime and criminal gangs, which has resulted in large numbers of prisoners and supports his bid for reelection.
The Colombians were detained for working for a loan shark company, but the judicial investigation did not prove their alleged criminality, which led to their release on December 20. The prosecutor’s office charged them with new crimes so that they could continue to be held. This practice, according to human rights defenders in El Salvador, is illegal. “These acts are illegal. They are evading compliance with a judicial resolution. We are facing a violation of international human rights standards,” Jonatan Sisco, lawyer for the Salvadoran organization Cristosal, told Cuestion Publica.
More than one year imprisoned
The three Colombians have been imprisoned in Salvadoran jails for more than a year. They were arrested while working as money collectors for a money lenders’ office, which, according to Carlos Ernesto Quiteño (their lawyer until a few months ago), is not a crime in their country.
After their arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office charged them with receiving (when a person helps those responsible for a crime against property or against the socioeconomic order in which he did not participate, but knows about, to take advantage of its effects for profit).
“El Salvador’s gangs do not allow foreigners in their ranks. If they lend money on interest, it is not illegal. To make loans you need a legally constituted company or corporation. The only thing they could be subject to is a fine for not having a business registration in the financial system. At the most, an expulsion from the country,” argued Carlos Ernesto Quiteño to the media.
When the judge released them, the prosecution later charged them with alleged money laundering, accusing them of belonging to a network of money lenders, something the defense has always denied.
For now, the Colombian government has not issued a statement on this case, and the relatives of the imprisoned live with despair as the months go by, without the case of Juan, Bayron and Mahyk showing any signs of ending soon or happily.